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William Wirt

From Academic Kids

William Wirt (November 8, 1772February 18, 1834) was an American author and statesman who is credited with turning the position of United States Attorney General into one of influence.

Born in Bladensburg, Maryland to a Swiss father and a German mother, Wirt was privately educated, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1792. After several years as a lawyer, he became clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates, then chancellor of the Eastern District of Virginia. In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson ask him to be the prosecutor in Aaron Burr's treason trial. President James Monroe named him the ninth Attorney General of the United States in 1817, a position he held for 12 years, through the administration of John Quincy Adams, until 1829. After leaving Washington, D.C., he returned to Baltimore, Maryland, was an unsuccessful candidate for President in 1832 as the candidate of the Anti-Masonic party. This was rather ironic because he was, in fact, a Freemason, and even gave a speech at the Anti-Masonic convention defending the organization. In going on to win Vermont, he became the first candidate of an organized third party to carry a state. Wirt practiced law until his death in 1834.

In 1817, Wirt wrote Life and Character of Patrick Henry, a biography of Patrick Henry which contained the text of some of Henry's speeches. Some historians have since speculated that some of Henry's phrases that have since become famous, such as "Give me liberty or give me death!" were essentially written by Wirt for his book (Raphael).

References


Preceded by:
Richard Rush
United States Attorney General
18171829
Succeeded by:
John M. Berrien

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